Eugénie MérieauMar 6, 2023
Thailand's Sacred Monarchy vs. The Rule of Law
Why has Thailand had 20 constitutions since 1932? What accounts for the remarkable veneration Thais often feel towards these short-lived documents? How is that military coups can be viewed as completely legal in Thailand? And what accounts for the leading role prominent legal experts play in Thailand’s political order?
In this podcast, Thailand scholar Duncan McCargo talks to Eugénie Mérieau about her wide-ranging new book, Constitutional Bricolage: Thailand's Sacred Monarchy vs. The Rule of Law (Bloomsbury, 2021), which analyses the unique constitutional system in operation in Thailand as a continuous process of bricolage between various Western constitutional models and Buddhist doctrines of Kingship. Reflecting on the category of 'constitutional monarchy' and its relationship with notions of the rule of law, it investigates the hybridised semi-authoritarian, semi-liberal monarchy that exists in Thailand. By studying constitutional texts and political practices in light of local legal doctrine, the book shows that the monarch's affirmation of extraordinary prerogative powers strongly rests on wider doctrinal claims about constitutionalism and the rule of law. This finding challenges commonly accepted assertions about Thailand, arguing that the King's political role is not the remnant of the 'unfinished' borrowing of Western constitutionalism, general disregard for the law, or cultural preference for 'charismatic authority', as generally thought. Drawing on materials and sources not previously available in English, this important work provides a comprehensive and critical account of the Thai 'mixed constitutional monarchy' from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
Eugénie Mérieau is an Associate Professor of Public Law (maîtresse de conférences) at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and a member of the Sorbonne Institute of Philosophical and Legal Research (CNRS).
Enjoyed this podcast? Here are some related recent podcasts on Thailand from the New Books Network:
- Puangthong Pawakapan on Infiltrating Society: The Thai Military’s Internal Security Affairs
- Supalak Ganjanakhundee on A Soldier King: Monarchy and Military in the Thailand of Rama X
- Duncan McCargo on Network Monarchy
- Duncan McCargo on Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand
Duncan McCargo is director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, and a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen. For his work on Thai politics, go here.